Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad (5 out of 5)



I am ridiculously glad that I read this book. I am ridiculously glad that my friend Dave M. recommended it to me. I feel a lot more intelligent having read the back stories of some of the best bands that were around for the decade of 1981-1991. For the record, also my formative years growing up in a desert of many musical cacti. There were some bands that I own albums by and enjoy greatly (Mission of Burma, Husker Du, Fugazi, and Dinosaur Jr.). There were some bands that I own a record by and enjoy leisurely but not obsessively (Black Flag, Minor Threat, Sonic Youth, and Big Black). There are some that I am moderately familiar with but need to explore more landscape before I cultivate a vinyl garden based upon the selection at hand (The Minutemen, Beat Happening, The Replacements, and Mudhoney). And then there’s one that I openly despise, but now at least I have gained some appreciation for what they went through to get where they are, and that mad scientist lead singer isn’t as dastardly as I had previously penned as (Butthole Surfers), so maybe I’ll open my mind up just a little bit more and give their music more of a chance before I pigeonhole myself into some sort of life openly worshipping subpar female bands that play in dark alley and semen-infested bathrooms. 

I’ll quit farting around and get to the review. I have read Michael Azerrad before. I love his book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. I think I may have read Screaming Life: A Chronicle of the Seattle Music Scene, but I am going to research further. If not, I will order it and buy it at the store, I feel I need to read more books like this one that he authored. I have said for over a year now that I’m going to open my mind up to experience more music, and after I read this opus, I am definitely going to get more selections by the bands profiled here. I love music books that aren’t so wordy that you feel like using them as a doorstop and not actually diving into them, or ones that are so silly that you feel like using them for storing your used up yogurt cups on them as a stand(?). 

Of the bands profiled here, I have to say my favorite learning experience was The Minutemen. I have heard quite a few songs, and I liked what I heard, but to be honest, I had forgotten about them completely until I read that chapter. I know Mike Watt from all of the side projects he’s done and my minimal exposure to them through the glory years of Q101 here in Chicago, but I hadn’t realized he was part of The Minutemen. The story of the band’s triumphs, the quirky friendship and funny interview excerpts printed here, and the heartbreaking end of the band with the death of D.Boon, really touched me. I don’t often tear up while reading music books, but the end of this story,  I really did. I am so glad that Azerrad decided on telling their story in this collection, for I likely would have never heard it otherwise.

I love Dinosaur Jr, and no amount of tempestuous waters flowing between Mascis and Barlow could ever change that. I love Mascis, and am not a huge fan of Barlow. However, through reading about what went down, I have more of a sympathy with Barlow than I used to. That’s another thing I really enjoyed about this book; you got both sides of every story. If there was crap going on behind the scenes, you got all sides. Azerrad is neutral to the end, and that’s definitely another plus in my book, regarding this book. He has a very natural way of moving the story along, through the inception, highs, lows, and often dangerous peaks of the music scene during that time. It’s easy to spend a week reading this book, because I wanted to take my time with it, and make sure I didn’t miss anything. It is pretty difficult to set down a collection like this. I encourage you to pick it up and don’t put it down until you’re finished. And then I dare you not to love it as much as I did. 

There is passion, truth, turmoil, heartbreak, rage, truth, and everything but kidney bean salad contained within these pages. If you love music from that decade, if you love bands that never quite got their due despite their hardships and passion gone into their craft, if you love stories of true grit and triumph over the evil of small record company greed, if you love weird stories (hello Gibby Haynes!) and brutal honesty (hello Henry Rollins!), this is the book you should pick up to begin to educate yourself about the unheralded movement of bands profiled in this book. I guarantee you will walk away not only more informed, but infinitely more curious and liable to actually go find a record store and do some investigating into some of these bands. You won’t be sorry you did so. 


~ by generationgbooks on August 12, 2013.

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